London: An Indian-origin minister who is a key member of the parliamentarian group in favour of Britain's exit from the European Union (EU) has used the country's love for Indian food, dubbed curry, to make her case stronger.
Priti Patel, UK employment minister and Prime Minister David Cameron's Indian Diaspora Champion, said membership of the EU meant unmanageable levels of European migration which led to Indian chefs being denied visas.
"There are over 12,000 Indian restaurants in the UK. But the future of this sector is under pressure and at risk while we remain in the EU," Patel said at a gathering in London yesterday to mark Commonwealth Day.
"Curry is often voted Britain's favourite meal. But there are fewer and fewer chefs able to come into the UK to cook curry dishes and train the next generation of chefs. The curry industry supports 70,000 jobs and is worth more than 3 billion pounds to our economy," she said.
The 43-year-old is among those spearheading the "Vote Leave" campaign in the lead up to the referendum on June 23, when the British public will vote on Britain's future in or out of the EU.
The Gujarati-origin Conservative Party MP also made specific reference to Indian students, sports men and women and priests who are blocked from the UK due to rules that "discriminate against our Commonwealth friends".
She said: "As the Prime Minister's UK-India Diaspora Champion, I have heard the heartbreaking stories from families up and down the country where relatives from India who they have not seen for years have been unable to come here for a special occasion.
"I have also seen the cases of Kabaddi players struggling to get permission to play in the UK and showcase their sport. Temples and Gurdwaras face uphill battles securing visas for priests.
Students who want to study in the UK ? some of the brightest and best from around the Commonwealth are being put off...How can it be right that our membership of the EU can lead to, sportsmen, chefs, and students facing restrictions, and families being left divided. By voting to leave the EU, we can take back control over our borders and immigration policy," she said.
She also extended her argument to trade and economic matters, saying Britain could be doing much more with "India, Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and all other Commonwealth countries" if it voted to leave the EU.
"The vested interests of other EU countries and the trade barriers, rules, and restrictions the EU imposes stand in the way of new economic opportunities with the Commonwealth. In the referendum on June 23, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to safeguard the future of our country," she said.